When it comes to the safety of our children, do things really change?

safeguarding childrenA letter to the editor in the October 30, 2018 Democrat-Gazette, a statewide daily newspaper in the state of Arkansas, U.S.A., from a school teacher reminds me of something kids did in the 1950’s. The letter mentions active-shooter drills kids must go through each semester. I remember in the 1950’s we had to go through drills that supposedly prepared us to be protected from the threat of nuclear attack from the big bad bear (the Soviet Union), who was hell-bent on wiping America off the face of the planet.

Drawing contrasts and comparisons to these threats (uniquely developed American gun violence and Cold War nuclear destruction) is obviously enticing, thus this blog. One comparison from the start is how we tend to think of the safety of our children when imminent danger lingers. After the horrible incidents of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world had a real-life example of how horribly devastating nuclear power could be to human life. The attack on these two Japanese cities removed all need for speculation. Images of the toll in the loss of life and destruction of infrastructure were there for all to see. I can recall ducking under school desks in drills that were to somehow protect us from nuclear annihilation. In retrospect, wasn’t that dumb? It seems there was no accounting for the aftermath of nuclear fallout that would sweep hundreds, if not thousands of miles of real-estate, following the initial shock of the explosion.

Today, we Americans live in a country that’s armed to the teeth. Depending on which statistical presentation you rely on, estimates are that there are enough guns in America for each citizen to own one, yet less than a third of the population actual own a gun. We’re sitting own a powder keg that sometimes explodes, leaving us with grieving on both a local and national scale. Whenever people, with mental or emotional problems have access to guns, they have real power to enter public spaces and take lives. Too often, these spaces are our schools. As the drills to protect children from nuclear attack in the 1950’s were no match for the reality of an actual attack, the numbers of American children sent too early to the afterlife seem to be evidence of the same. It’s even more tragically ironic when it’s one of the children, who brandishes a gun for ending the life of fellow schoolmates.

Strauss’ letter to the editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette asks the question of whether the environment in schools in America operate in a state of normality. As much as I hate to respond with an attitude that might seem hopeless, I think it is our new normality. Whenever a people seem to, collectively, think owning tools that are meant to end life is more important than life itself, liberty and the pursuit of joy, that’s sadly real, and normal. Of course, that’s my opinion. You may harbor a different one.

The threat of death and destruction are still with us, as in the days of the Cold War. Unfortunately, things are much hotter today, and the heat is being generated in our own back yard, too often by our own citizens.

If life is precious, and it seems even more so when it’s personified in our children around the world, it’s going to take more than preparedness drills to usher in a less violent normality.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Make your mark


I had an important experience this morning. This is an experience that I’ve had before. It comes around with some regularity, unless there’s a “special” called to address something that requires immediate attention. At this point, you might be asking what I am talking about. I’m referring to one of, if not, the most important activity all American citizens, eighteen and over, should feel a duty to exercise, voting. Early voting for the mid-term elections began yesterday in my state. For anyone, who might be reading this outside of the United States, our national elections operate on a four-year cycle, with what we call mid-term elections occurring two years after the national. The mid-terms take place to elect national legislators to seats where the terms of incumbents are expiring. Around the country, some state and local political seats are also involved. I’ve been voting in all elections since shortly after I turned eighteen. Teachers, older relatives and others instilled in me the importance of “making my mark.” Well, they didn’t say that exactly. That was a term I saw on the polo shirt of one of my local election commission employees at the poll location where I voted this morning. “Make your mark” is a powerful statement!
As I made my mark this morning, I couldn’t help but think of all the people who had paid the price in blood, sweat, tears, and giving of life, providing me the chance to “make my mark.” As I stood in line, I was drawn to survey several things. One of them was the diversity of people quietly and swiftly moving forward toward the voting machines. Somehow, the room seemed almost like a place of meditation, where everyone held within their heart their personal choices on which they would make their mark. Each was person participating in an event that is just short of being deemed sacred. I also found it impressive that the room had people of all ethnic backgrounds: Asian, European, African, and other ethnicities for whom I couldn’t take a guess. Would it have been this way fifty years ago, I asked myself?
I also found myself looking downward, toward the floor, yes, the floor. I’m probably one of those people, who find their attention victim to the draw of a variety of things in public spaces. This morning, looking down, I was drawn to the variety of footwear, worn by my fellow citizens. There were a few pairs of shiny dress shoes, but not many. The feet were mostly adorned in athletic shoes, work boots, a few flip-flops, and a good smattering of well-worn foot coverings that had seen better days. The footwear seemed almost like metaphors for all the people who make up the citizenry of our country. All can come. It’s our inalienable right. It makes no difference if I can afford to wear a pair of high-priced Christian Louboutin’s or a well-worn pair of nameless kicks from Wal-Mart. We can all reverently go to “make our mark’, indeed make our personal impression on history.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A pleasant trip to the dentist

Sitting in dental chairThere are places we can visit where we know before we get there that a fun time will be had. Looking back through the years, some of those places for me have been amusement parks, hikes in the woods during the fall, family reunions, just to name a few. However, do you think a trip to the dentist can be an enjoyable experience?

Good dental health has been a challenge for me all my life. I was one of the thousands of poor children in the state of Arkansas. U.S.A. who, even today, suffer from lack of good dental care. I can recall having my first tooth extracted during my teenaged years. After graduating from college, one of the first things I did was invest money in getting some seriously needed restorative dental work done. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be… a few fillings here and there, and I was ready to go out into the world with a good smile.

For years, I would get good checkups at my dentist. There was very little need for what I call hard-hat construction work. Then, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2,000. I’m sure there was some mention of the problems chemotherapy and other drugs would cause to my dental health; however, I didn’t make very good mental recordings. Then came the need for this root canal and that root canal. The need for much more extensive dental work than I had ever had before led me to discover Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas).

Nitrous Oxide is that wonderful relaxant that allows me to get the rest I need while sitting in what otherwise could be a torture chamber. I recall, a few years ago, my dentist shot me up with anesthesia, placed the Nitrous mask on my face and left me for a few minutes until the area she was to work on became anesthetized. By the time she came back, I was somewhere rollicking in a land far, far away. So far, in fact, that she had a difficult time arousing me. When I became alerted to her interference, my complaint was: Why did you wake me? The relaxing effects of Nitrous Oxide are wonderful. That little venture into a land far away caused quite the stir in my dentist office that day. I’m still trying to figure out what all the fuss was about. From that point forward, my dentist is reluctant to turn the Nitrous up to one hundred percent. My ongoing joke with her is that I want the full dose, since she charges me the same regardless of whether it’s one hundred percent or some lesser concentration.

I’m a huge fan of smooth jazz! Putting on the earphones and adjusting the volume just right to the sounds of my favorite jazz artist has always been a relaxing distraction for me. Now, when you combine Nitrous Oxide with smooth jazz, the experience of visiting my dentist becomes more pleasant than a good night’s sleep. You see, my dentist always asks me what’s my musical pleasure as I’m reclining to have dental damage performed. Who would’ve ever thought a visit to the dentist would be so pleasant?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

With certainty, now is what we have


One of the things I have varied opinions about is conversations with millennials. Many are imaginatively wise beyond their comprehensive ability. I say that not to be rude or somehow disrespectful, but to paint a picture of just how limiting the lack of life experience renders one to even begin to fathom life. All generations go through this phase of growth and development. When I was in my twenty-somethings, I felt I had the market sewn up on all things wise. One of the signs of my inability to grasp the concept of wisdom was my regular practice of harking back to times when I would say, “I should have, or I wish I had of.” If that wasn’t the case, I would often find myself saying, “When I reach a certain point, I will do this or that.”

Wait a minute, I’m being unfair to millennials. This practice of not living in the present isn’t something that only millennials do. I find far too many people do it. Why is there not a clear understanding among us all that the only real-time we have is now? We may reminisce about the great days gone by, but that’s just what they are gone by. Often, they weren’t as great as we have romanticized them to be. If we’re not inaccurately digging through the past, we’re prophesying about what will happen in the future. It’s as if the past didn’t grant us all that we wished and now is questionable in its ability to grant good fortune; therefore, tomorrow will cause all elements of the universe to gel in our favor.

The one thing we all have equal possession of is the here and now. Tomorrow might be something we look forward to; however, when it arrives it’s now. I once heard someone say, humorously, that tomorrow never comes, because when it arrives, it’s today. It’s almost as if the linear operation of time forces us to recognize that “now” is all we must do our best at living life. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all did our best at living in the now? If we all made our best effort at work, at being a family member, at being a neighbor, at being a citizen of the nation in which we live. Each of us would understand uniquely what carpe diem means. Each of us would emerge from our place of abode at the beginning of the day determined to feel good at day’s end about what we’ve accomplished.

Our time is limited in this life. We have no credit column clearly lined out that tells us how long we have left. However, we do have a deficit column that tells us how well we’re spending the God-given time in the now. God gives each of us the now as if it were a single page on which we’re to write our legacy a page at a time. Some of us are given more pages than others, however, the number of pages doesn’t matter, how well we write does.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Lady justice is blind, is that a problem?

Lady Blindfolded Hold Scales Justice Oval

Most of us are aware of the symbol of equal justice in our country. You know, the robed lady holding a balanced scale in her hand, while sporting a blind fold, indicating that she has no respect of persons. Supposedly, she is ready and able to ensure justice for whomever comes before her because she’s only concerned with the merits of cases brought before her. She pays no attention to the race, ethnicity, gender, social standing, or any other demographic that might cause her to exercise favoritism.
Is lady justice truly blind to the point that she can’t be manipulated? Is she beyond being influenced by money, power and privilege? In my opinion and probably the opinion of others, she has been and probably will continue to be manipulated to the chagrin of many, who sorely need a good dose of justice.
I know the stance of the purveyors of justice looks much better when blindness to individuals brought before the bench of adjudication prevails; however, those purveyors are but human beings. Imperfection has been and always will be a characteristic of any process, any institution that has been established and maintained by human beings for the good of the general order. Judges and jurors are affected by the same cultural and social dynamics that work to develop the attitudes of the rest of us mere humans. Are they immune? No, but it is their professional calling to try to be.
When I say that maybe the supposed blindness of lady justice is the problem, I’m not saying she shouldn’t be objective. What I am saying is that the manipulative quality of the justice system makes her attempts at objectivity moot. Maybe she should take a gander at just what shenanigans are occurring in and around the halls of justice within which she operates. Is she truly aware of what has taken place before matters reach her? If there are actions that are taking places before her turn that are setting up conditions where miscarriages of justice are bond to happen, then maybe she should lift the corner of her blindfold? I say maybe because I’m not so sure that would be the salve to fix the problem. Maybe men and women of sterling character who are charged with executing actions within the jurisprudence system would ensure that lady justice sporting the blind fold wouldn’t present a problem for the poor, the disenfranchised.
Every time I hear of some poor character who has been released from prison, who was innocent, yet convicted twenty year ago, I can’t help but think: Maybe if she had at least taken a tiny peek from under that blind fold. Then again, maybe not.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.